Moshe and the Jewish people are beset with two dramatic challenges to their future and their wellbeing. Both those challenges follow one another rather quickly in the biblical text. Yet between them we read of the commandment to attach “Tzitzit” or fringes to the corners of our garments
.” Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue [wool] on the fringe of each corner.”(Numbers 15:38).
That is not happenstance
Regarding the sin of the spies the Baal HaTanya asks
“What led the other ten spies who were clearly chosen because of their spiritual greatness, to fail? Why would men of such great spiritual awareness not want to physically enter the land of Israel?”
He then explains that these men experienced the highest spiritual experiences that mortals can envision in their walk with Hashem through the wilderness. They experienced G-d’s great hand in Egypt and at the Red Sea and they heard the Divine voice at Mount Sinai. They lived in the desert but they drank from the miraculous well of Miriam and ate of the manna from heaven and were protected in their voyage by the very clouds of Glory.
Why would they want to leave all of that purely spiritual experience and lower themselves into a land where they would by necessity become involved with the physicality of reality. They believed that spirituality is best separated from the physical.
Man can only elevate himself through the direct intervention of the Heavenly sphere termed the Itaruta DeLe’ala ( Stirring from Above). Without that direct and complete intervention man would flounder and fail.
Regarding the rebellion of Korach, in addition to what may have also been personal and selfish motivations , we read the following;
“for the entire congregation are all holy, and Hashem is in their midst. So why do raise yourselves above the Hashem’s assembly? (Numbers 16:3).
He was declaring with his words “for the entire congregation are all holy “ that the people have an ingrained and divinely gifted power to bring in this world the powers of holiness by themselves. They would not need the divinely appointed Moshe and Aharon for direction and purpose. The people, he believed, would, by their inherent holiness bring holiness and purpose down into this world. That is called the Itaruta Deletata( Stirring from Below).
Yet in truth both are critical features of the walk of the faithful into destiny. Either one on its own does not achieve Hashem’s purpose in this world.
We see that on the one hand we are told” So says Hashem; Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes his flesh into his strength (arm), and whose heart turns away from Hashem”( Jeremiah 17:5 ) .
On the other hand it is clear that Hashem waits for us to step into the path of destiny.
Moshe escapes from Egypt , his people and his destiny. We do not hear about him for almost sixty years and he is content shepherding his small flock of sheep. “Moshe was pasturing the flocks of Jethro, his father in law, the chief of Midian, and he led the flocks after the free pastureland, and he came to the mountain of G-d, to Horeb”( Exodus 3:1) .
He is then confronted with an unusual spiritual phenomenon. For someone like Moshe running away from any spiritual entanglements, he should have ignored the event and moved on. But that is not what he did. “So Moshe said, “Let me turn now and see this great spectacle why does the thorn bush not burn up?”(ibid:3).
We then read the following;
” Hashem saw that he had turned to see, and G-d called to him from within the thorn bush, and He said, “Moshe, Moshe!” And he said, “Here I am!”(ibid:4)
Hashem creates the plan of destiny and puts all the pieces in place and then waits for us to step into destiny and purpose.
Itaruta DeLe’ala in conjunction with Itaruta DeLe’tata .
How does one retain and maintain that spiritual balance?
That balance is symbolized by the fringes on our garments we read about between the description of the two events.” Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of Tchellet ( Biblical Sky Blue) on the fringe of each corner. This shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of Hashem to perform them, and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray. So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments and you shall be holy to your G-d”( Numbers 15:38-40)
The first lesson is to walk within the path of obedience that has been set before you” So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments and you shall be holy to your G-d”( ibid:40 ). It is on this path that one will learn humility and find purpose and destiny.
On the other hand we are also told of the blue fringe;
” and they shall affix a thread of Tchellet ( Biblical Sky Blue) on the fringe of each corner.”(ibid:38 ).
What does the Blue string on the tzitzit symbolize.
The Midrash says, “Whoever observes the mitzvah of tzitzit is considered as if he greeted the Divine Presence, for Tchellet resembles the sea, and the sea resembles the sky, and the sky resembles G-d’s throne of Glory ( Kavod).” (Sifrei – Shelach)
What then does Kavod Hashem –the Glory of G-d actually mean? In common parlance it is usually described as being synonymous with the concept of the Shechina – the Presence of G-d .
Yet that cannot be.
Ezekiel describes the Glory of G-d leaving the temple mount when the people of Israel go into exile;
“..the cherubim lift up their wings, and the wheels were beside them; and the Glory of the G-d of Israel was over them above. And the Glory of Hashem ( Kavod Hashem) went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.”(11:22-23).
Many have mistranslated the word Kavod (Glory) as being a synonym for the ”Presence of G-d ( Shechina) ”. Yet that cannot be, as G-d’s Presence is never to leave the temple mount;
“…whereof Hashem had said, In Jerusalem shall My name be for ever. (II Chronicles 33:4).
Yet with the exile of His people, the concept called Hashem’s Glory “left” as well.
Glory then, is best defined as the perceived Presence of G-d that necessitates people to be there to declare or acknowledge that Glory or Kavod. That is to say Kavod or Glory necessitates a people who can become a worthy and active vessel.
We see then in the concept of the Tzitzit the balance between the Itaruta DeLe’ala and the Itaruta DeLe’tata. That is what the spies and Korach seemed to have not understood.
We need to constantly be reminded that on the one hand we are but servants of G-d’s will and purpose. Yet on the other we are also His language.
Lerefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved